Start a Business for the Win, Part 1: Yes, YOU Can
by Eva Jannotta
If you’re thinking about starting a business, congratulations! Anyone can start a business. All you need is your idea, your goals, and a business model (and probably a website). Here are some things to consider as you plan your business:
Find your niche – No market is too saturated for your unique self. You need a business idea. What’s your product or service? And more importantly, what makes your business special? The answer to this last question is obvious in a way: you make your business special. Find a way to make it obvious to your customers. What about your experiences or creation makes you unique?
In other words, don’t just be an English major who edits stuff. What are you excellent at and experienced in editing: scientific writing? Technical writing about vacuums? Marketing organic cotton baby clothes? Or what do you know so much about that you can improve a piece by editing it?
Set yourself apart by finding a niche and becoming an expert (if you aren’t already). Develop expertise that your customers can trust. Do this by contributing content; write a blog, guest post on blogs about your topic, write white papers or ebooks, make videos, create Pin boards and use Instagram for visual content. Even curating your Twitter feed is a way to establish expertise. Key in to your industry – establish relationships with media outlets or journalists that cover your topic, volunteer at events in your industry. Pitch presentations at conferences.
Reading three paragraphs on finding a niche makes it sound like it can be done overnight, but I’m still finding my niche! I’m a professional organizer – will my niche by digital clutter? I’m a social media and marketing consultant – will I specialize in social media support for Gen Xers? I’m developing a financial literacy class for students and young adults. Maybe financial education will be my expertise. It’s okay if you’re not sure, or if it takes time to decide on your niche. You can start before you’re certain. Your niche will make itself known as you experiment with your options.
Starting a Business: What are your goals for your business – and your life?
Know yourself, know your goals – There are more reasons than “make money” to start a business. When I started Simply Put Strategies, I had a lot of anxiety about making it “successful,” and in my mind that meant making it “pay.” My sister suggested that I change my definition of success from make money to improve peoples’ lives through organization. Not because wanting to make money is bad, but because money-making as a goal made me feel like a panicked failure instead of a powerful person who makes her clients’ lives more joyful and free.
Making money is an important goal, but know your other business goals: to create art that makes people happy or pensive? To support baby boomers as they age? To publish websites that are intuitive for new users?
There are many reasons to start a business, and they can all be goals: build expertise, practice self-management, widen your range of experiences, expand your network, have a back-up option if you leave your job, have an option if you want to work part-time to raise kids or write a book. Can you think of other great reasons to start a business?
Get a business plan model – Where is the money coming from? Some people insist that you need to write a business plan, and that’s up to you. But whether you write a plan or not, you DO need a business model: you need to have a plan for supporting yourself.
Few businesses make a ton of money at first. Some never make much at all. However, you need money to live. So make sure you have a business model that allows you to live while you get your business mojo flowing. This could be working full time, part-time, working virtually, contracting, living off savings, doing odd jobs off Craigslist, or dog walking. I do not recommend quitting a salaried job to start a business with no idea how you will support yourself. That is a recipe for sleepless nights and is a terrible business model! My business model is to work part time at MOM’s Organic Market while I build my client base.
Starting a business: you can work for yourself all day in a cafe!
Starting a business is a big step, and may sound scary. What if it fails? What if you don’t like it? Anything is possible, but what you will learn makes it a worthy investment. If you’re worried about losing money, consider this: it cost me only $300 to start my business (registering in the state of Maryland and paying for my website). You can do it!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Start a Business for the Win.
Eva Jannotta is a professional organizer, social media consultant, and the founder of Simply Put Strategies.